International travel from England will be banned no earlier than May 17, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Monday when he proposed a four-step easing of England’s latest Covid-19 restrictions.
In its roadmap to ease restrictions, the UK government announced a review of travel that will report on April 12 with recommendations on how international travel should be resumed, while addressing the risks of new variants of coronavirus.
“The government will decide when international travel will resume, which will not happen until May 17,” the government said in a statement.
The UK is looking at a system to allow vaccinated people to travel more freely internationally, the statement added.
The announcement came as Johnson on Monday set out a facade plan on Monday to end England’s lockdown and offer a “cautious” approach to trying to prevent a return to wholesale restrictions that have hampered the economy.
Johnson, under pressure to allow more freedoms to millions stuck at home and offer hope to closed businesses, said the first step would prioritize schools returning on March 8 when only minimal outdoor socialization is allowed.
The so-called roadmap will then pass through four stages, with five weeks in between, and the final step, when most restrictions will be lifted.
“Therefore, there is no credible path to a zero Covid UK or a zero Covid world. And we cannot continue indefinitely with constraints that weaken our economy, our physical and mental well-being and our children’s livelihoods,” Johnson told parliament. . .
“And that’s why it’s so crucial that this roadmap is prudent but also irreversible. We are pursuing what I hope and believe is a one – way road to freedom.”
With almost 130,000 deaths, the UK has suffered the world’s fifth highest official death toll from the pandemic and its economy has seen its biggest crash in over 300 years.
With one of the strictest blockades and one of the world’s fastest vaccine developments, the country can be seen as a test case for governments hoping to resume economies and restore life to some form of normality.
Even with encouraging data after more than two months of domestic vaccinations released on Monday, the British government’s cautious approach highlights how slow a process it will be for many countries.
Britons must work from home if possible
Johnson said the rapid start of vaccine expansion plus a sharp drop in infections now allowed him to set up a cautious relief from England’s tough national shutdown, which started on 5 January.
As the plan develops, legislators will have the opportunity to vote on specific steps. Authorities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, which are responsible for their own public health, will also ease the restrictions in the coming months.
The resumption of schools is expected to help the economy and free up parents who have had to juggle work and homeschooling.
However, any relief from the social mix will initially be limited and the government will ask people to work from home, where they can, for a few weeks until it has completed a review of social distancing sometime before 21 June.
A small number of people are expected to be able to mingle outdoors at the end of March, but non-essential shops and outdoor hospitality will not open until 12 April at the earliest.
Most rules for social contact will be repealed outdoors no earlier than 17 May, with all legal restrictions on social contact being removed no earlier than 21 June.
Rapid roll-out of the vaccine
Johnson, who was treated last year in intensive care for Covid-19, is facing pressure from politicians in his Conservative party to restart the economy but also from scientific advisers who fear that the virus will re-emerge if he unlocks too quickly.
He has seemed more cautious in recent months than before in the pandemic, when he was widely criticized for his zeal to reopen shops, restaurants, pubs and offices.
“We have a not very good position, which is getting better,” the government’s top science adviser Patrick Vallance told reporters.
“The message that comes out of all modeling is … get down (infection) numbers before you start dropping, walk slowly, (and) walk in blocks that you can measure the effect of after four or five weeks.”
England’s vaccine campaign significantly reduces cases, with a reduction of about 70 percent in infections among healthcare professionals who have received a first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech shot, healthcare officials said on Monday.
The UK moved faster than most countries to secure vaccine supplies and has vaccinated people rapidly since December, a strategy that has driven sterling and stock markets higher with hopes of an economic recovery.
( Jowharwith AFP and REUTERS)